Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
April 30, 2018

"Rain or shine, Legal Aid will be there."  -Alexis Mukaida, AmeriCorps Advocate

AmeriCorps advocate Robert Topenio at the "Tooth Be Told Fair" at 
Palama Settlement on Oahu.

"Building a Just Society"
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Executive Director's Corner

Each year, Pacific Business News recognizes 40 under 40 who make a difference in Hawaii. This year, our own Director of External Relations, Sergio Alcubilla, was recognized. He was chosen from a field of more than 200 nominations. Sergio is the creator of the newly revamped Tidbits & Thoughts with fun contests for staff, the guy who helps out to make sure the Self-Help Centers and Access to Justice Rooms are running, the one to call or email when something needs to be changed on the Legal Aid websites, and the one who talks to the press when they call. He also does so much more behind the scenes, quietly, effectively, and with determination.
He is generous with his praise and always diplomatic and thoughtful in his responses. He helps to make what we do more visible to the community and is just plain amazing.
A huge congratulations to Sergio for this honor. You deserve it.



Marshallese Education Day  honors academic achievements of youth
On Saturday, April 21, 2018 the Marshallese Education Day committee held its 11 th  annual event at United Harris Methodist church.  
The event acknowledges the academic achievements of Hawaii's Marshallese middle and high school students who were able to maintain a 3.0 GPA for two consecutive quarters. The event consisted of break-out sessions for parents, students, and keiki and later, a main ceremony where everyone gathered to award the students. 
Each year the committee invites speakers from the state of Hawaii, the Republic of the Marshall Islands government, and other distinguished guests from the community. The event was made possible by volunteers, service providers, and friends and families of the Marshallese community. This year, Legal Aid not only participated as a service provider but staff attorney Bow Mun Chin and outreach specialist Joanne Loeak from Legal Aid's Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center hosted the parents' session with more than 100 participants learning about immigrants' rights and victim remedies.   Legal Aid's AmeriCorps members Alexis Mukaida, Ming Tanigawa-Lau, and Monica Luat along with Health Navigators Cinder Sonis and Sepe Mongkeya and staff member Jacklyne Moses provided legal information and resources at the Legal Aid booth.

Education Day is one of the largest Marshallese community events with more than 200 participants enjoying a full day of food, entertainment, and the sharing of information and resources from community and service providers. -Joanne Loek, HIJC outreach specialist
HIJC staff attorney Bow Mun Chin discussing immigration issues during Marshallese Education Day.

L-R: Alexis Mukaida, Sepe Mongkeya, Cinder Sonis, Bow Mun Chin, Joanne Loeak, and Monica Luat 
provide resources at Marshallese Education Day.

Kosrae Honolulu Women's Day Celebration 
Legal Aid's Health Navigators Cinder Sonis, Ronnette Ome, and Sepe Mongkeya attended the 3rd annual Kosrae Honolulu Women's Day Celebration at the Towers of Kuhio Park Community Hall. Hundreds of Kosrae community members attended the fun-filled event aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles. Various service providers promoted their organizations, including HMSA and Kokua Kalihi Valley Health Center, and guest speakers that sought to inspire attendees to promote the theme of their celebration "Press for Progress". 

Cinder, Ronnette, and Sepe educated visitors about special enrollment for health insurance and completing tax returns to continue receiving subsidies through the Federal Marketplace. They also offered information about Legal Aid's Victim of Crime project and general information about Legal Aid services.  -Connie Liu, managing attorney for community engagement

Leeward office at the Waianae Coast Keiki Spring Fest
Leeward office managing attorney Russ Awakuni, staff attorney Susan Gim Takenaka, and AmeriCorps advocate Robert Topenio with Aimoku Chee; a third-year law student at the William S. Richardson School of Law serving as a volunteer law intern, provide legal resources at this year's Keiki Spring Fest.

Legal Aid AmeriCorps members recongized at Honolulu's National Service Recognition Day
Legal Aid AmeriCorps members were recognized for their service during Honolulu's National Service Recognition Day. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell acknowledged the value and impact of National Service Programs such as Senior Corps and AmeriCorps as an innovative solution to address challenging community issues. Legal Aid's AmeriCorps members serve as client advocates in its statewide offices and court self-help centers.

L-R: Oahu AmeriCorps members Monica Luat, Ming Tanigawa-Lau, 
Amekudji (
AmeriCorps Vista), 
Robert Topenio, and Rachael Reynon.

Legal Aid's Kara Doles featured on Olelo's Island Focus
Legal Aid's Kara Doles with host Lyla Berg on Olelo's Island Focus
Legal Aid's Kara Doles with host Lyla Berg 
on Olelo's Island Focus

Legal Aid's technology project coordinator Kara Doles is featured on Island Focus, a monthly half-hour television series produced by '┼îlelo Community Media. The show features exclusive interviews with members of government, business, education, and community sectors who talk about their passions, what's new, and what impact they've made. 

Kara shared about Legal Aid's current innovations in using technology to help increase access to justice for the community.
Big Island

Hilo Legal Aid office welcomes new notary
Lori Richards serves as the new notary at the Hilo Legal Aid office.
Lori Richards' first notary client needed help notarizing an advance health care directive and will.

National Service Recognition Day honors AmeriCorps' contributions 

Kathleen Brown, AmeriCorps Advocate for Legal Aid's Maui office, was honored for her public service along with other AmeriCorps and Kaunoa Senior Services volunteers at the recognition ceremony on April 4, 2018 by Mayor Alan Arakawa.

A gift of appreciation for Maui's Megan Moniz
Maui Legal Aid staff attorney Megan Moniz received a gift basket from one of her clients that she assisted with the name change of her son.  The minor child wanted to be able to have his new name to apply for his driver's license. -Yukari Murakami, Maui managing attorney

Maui staff attorney Megan Moniz receives a basket of appreciation from a very happy client.

Volunteers receive high praise on National Service Day Recognition
By Dennis Fujimoto 
The Garden Island 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island 
Representatives from the different service programs including AmeriCorps, the Senior Corps, and RSVP are thanked for their service by government officials, Tuesday during National Service Recognition Day, Tuesday at the Lihue Civic Center, Moikeha Building.

LIHUE - Kento Caya and Yvonne Johnson quietly closed the door to their van laden with foodstuffs in the parking lot of the Lihue Civic Center Tuesday.
They were leaving to deliver the food to the Loaves and Fishes food pantry program at the St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church after missing out on the county's recognition program for volunteers as part of the National Service Day Recognition.
"Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. wanted us to come," Johnson said. "But what's more important? Getting the food for the people who need it or visiting the mayor? We've been doing this for 10 years - Tuesday, we pick up the food, and Wednesday, we distribute the food."
National Service Day Recognition is an opportunity to thank volunteers, through the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs, for their volunteerism and the impact it has on the more than 50,000 communities they serve across the country.
"You don't hear their stories on the nightly news," said Donna Olivas Kaohi, Kauai RSVP director. "But every day, they head out quietly and without fanfare to improve lives and strengthen communities. I am grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of these everyday heroes who are helping make our great country stronger, safer, and healthier."
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said in her message, that the quality and fabric of a person, or measure of success does not consist of how many medals you wear on your chest, how many awards you've received, how much money you make, or the title next to your name.
"It has nothing to do with race, or gender, or rank, or religion," she said in her message delivered by Kaulana Finn. "These qualities do not define us, or our success. It's actually what is in our hearts, our motivation, why we do what we do every day - that's what matters."
Carvalho agreed.
"It's not about the money," he said. "I know. My grandma raised me, and I get chicken skin. It's about the soda crackers and cocoa. It's the love that comes with service. That is the impact it has on the community."
Gina Okuda-Stauring is a paralegal with Legal Aid on an AmeriCorps contract.
"I moved back here from California with my children because my father was dying of cancer," she said. "I was turned on to AmeriCorps by another AmeriCorps worker in the judiciary department. This is mostly volunteer work, but there are benefits. I am too old to go to college, but I found out I can transfer my credits to my son who was just accepted to college."
Okuda-Stuaring said it was through AmeriCorps that she got to do outreach with the kupuna, many of whom became her good friends.
"There are so many wonderful kupuna out there," she said. "And yet, this is my way of giving back to the community?"   Click for full story

Kauai floods impact Legal Aid staff
Kauai Legal Aid office Seniors Paralegal, Donna McMillen, volunteered to help a flood victim salvage what was left of her home.


Congratulations to Kauai AmeriCorps Advocate Sonia Song 
Sonia was nominated for the  Kauai Outstanding Older American Award and is pictured on its flier. Sonia has long served as the AmeriCorps advocate at Kauai's court self-help center and works with volunteer attorneys to provide free legal information to the public. 

Kauai AmeriCorps member Sonia Song recognized for her service with a crowned haku with fellow AmeriCorps member Gina Okuda-Stauring.
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act
Jelani Madaraka 
FHEO Lead Civil Rights Analyst,  HUD Honolulu Field Office
Carolyn M.F. Vierra
Hawaii Civil Rights Commission
Jack Legal
Honolulu Board of Realtors
Madonna Castro
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii

Fair Housing Month kicks-off with Mayor's Proclamation
Fair Housing month in April kicked off with a proclamation from Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's office. The Fair Housing Enforcement team provided statewide trainings and other programs promoting Fair Housing throughout the month of April.

Legal Aid's Madonna Castro Perez, Lindsey Kukona Pakele, and Dan O'Meara accept the Mayor's proclamation celebrating the  50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. 

Governor's Proclamation honors Fair Housing Month 
Legal Aid Fair Housing advocate Madonna Castro Perez celebrating the  50th anniversary of the 
Fair Housing Act with Gov. David Ige and other agency representatives.

Microsoft Legal Access Platform prototype testing underway
Testing for the prototype of the the Microsoft Legal Access Platform is underway. Community navigators and end users helped provide feedback on this exciting new project. To learn more about this project and its progress,  click here.

Project partners watched as testers navigated through the online platform.

Legal Aid attorneys chosen as Fellows for Hawaii State Bar Association Leadership Institute
Congratulations to Laura Knudsen and Sergio Alcubilla for being selected as Fellows for the Hawaii State Bar Association Leadership Institute. The program was developed in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the bar's strategic planning process, in which leadership development became a key focus. Fellows will spend four hours each month in a program facilitated by bar members and will feature prominent leaders of the legal profession and the greater community. At the end of the program, each fellow is required to develop and undertake an approved project demonstrating their commitment to leadership.

Congratulations to Legal Aid staff member Sergio Alcubilla for being included in Pacific Business News 40 Under 40
Photo credit: Shea Henson

Sergio Alcubilla, Legal Aid's Director of External Relations, was included in Pacific Business News 2018 "40 Under 40" awards and event. The award highlights Hawaii's promising young business and non-profit leaders who make a difference. 

Sergio's inclusion brings recognition to the many young attorneys and staff members at Legal Aid who continue to work tirelessly towards the vision of "Building a Just Society" for all.   Click for the full list of honorees .

Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room Volunteers
Thank you to the law firm and attorneys of Carlsmith Ball LLP  for  adopting the month of April to volunteer at the Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room. 

Mei-Fei Kuo 
Melissa Lambert
Laura Lucas
Avery Matro 
Lindsay McAneeley
Arsima Muller
Mark Murakami 
Daniel Padilla 
Tom Roesser 
Ian Sandison
Jane Schumacker
Derek Simon 
Bob Strand
Joyce Tam-Sugiyama 
Onaona Thoene 
Tina Tsuchiyama
Ian Wesley-Smith 
Toby Yamashiro

Honolulu Access to Justice Room Spotlight:  Arlette Harada
Interviewed by Danielle Woo, HNL AmeriCorps advocate

Arlette Harada has been a consistent part of the Access to Justice Room and has been volunteering since its inception in 2012. She fulfills a two-hour shift on Fridays in the Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room and volunteers once or twice a month. Poised and professional, Arlette is excellent with all types of clients and treats them with respect and attentiveness when it comes to their legal issues. She is knowledgeable and experienced with legal issues of a wide range, and her knowledge is highly pertinent to the common legal issues that the AJR sees.

What area of law do you practice?
My current practice is limited to collection, foreclosure and bankruptcy representing condo and homeowner associations. In the past, I represented condo clients in construction defect and other litigation matters. Before that I practiced in the areas of labor and employment law and workers' compensation.

When did you start volunteering with the AJR?
I was in the original group of volunteers which trained and started assisting clients in 2012.

Why did you decide to volunteer? Why do you continue to do it?
I had been looking for a volunteer opportunity that presented a good fit for the type of experience I had and for which the time commitment was limited. I like the fact that I can sign up for a two hour slot and that I can help people during that period of time without feeling that I need to take them on as a regular client after my volunteer slot is done. Since the time for each client is limited, I probably can help four or more people during a single slot. In one case, an issue arose which required that I speak with opposing counsel because the client had limited English skills. I was able to take on that additional work after my slot is completed.

What's been a memorable experience during your time at the AJR?
One of the experiences which has been new for me has been attempting to counsel clients through an interpreter with the interpreter on the phone in another state. In addition, the kinds of people who come in the door are pretty interesting as well.

What is the most common question/issue you get?
One of the things that I've found in volunteering at the Access to Justice Room is that I cannot predict what kind of issues will walk through the door. There are the usual landlord -tenant, obtaining and collecting on judgments, obtaining TROs, and advising litigants on representing themselves in court. But there also are issues beyond the jurisdiction of the district court such as employment, seeking injunctive relief and finding possible relief through a government agency.

What have you learned from volunteering at the AJR?
That with just a little help some people can competently represent themselves before the district court. I take great satisfaction when I feel that someone I helped will be able to represent themselves.